Suitland Parkway was constructed through a natural valley during World War II to connect Bolling Air Force Base with Andrews Air Force. It runs through Ward 8 for three miles, from the I-295 to the Maryland state line at Southern Avenue. With only two street crossing in between, it affectively separates the northern portion of Ward 8 from the southern two-thirds.
Known as a busy commuter route between central Washington to its eastern suburbs, the parkway is also a nature preserve, flanked on each side by over 100 acres of forested hillside. These woods shelter the many hilltop apartment buildings at the top of the hill from the noise and pollution of the roadway bellow. In places, the valley is so narrow and the hills so steep that, viewed from above, the road seems to disappear.
The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum sits on the north side of the parkway. Museum staff and volunteers maintain the George Washington Carver Trail through the pretty upland woods nearby, one of only two designated hiking trails in Ward 8.
Unlike the other three major wooded areas in Ward 8, which belong to the National Park Service, most of Suitland Parkway is managed by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation. Not surprisingly, it has never managed as a public greenspace. Unfortunately, the steep hillsides that make Suitland Parkway so striking have also made it irresistible to generations of illegal dumpers. In places where building back up the forest and street dead-at the forests edge, all manner of household items, furniture, car parts and construction materials cover the ground.
Invasive English ivy, bittersweet and multiflora rose are rampant, undermining the diverse of native plants and animals found here.
The photos at right (change this to reflect layout) were taken within 100 yards of one another. One shows the natural beauty of the parkway, while the other demonstrates the devastating effects of trash.
In 2018 Ward 8 Woods began the massive undertaking of remove decades worth of accumulated trash and beat back the advance of invasive species. In the coming years we hope to work with the DC government to create hiking trails along both sides of the parkway.